Like An Upside Down Virgin?
When Sire were preparing the release of Madonna‘s second album they were faced with two potential areas of controversy. The first being the genuinely deliciously ironic pairing of a record titled ‘Like A Virgin‘ being released by a singer whose parents named her Madonna! Such combination of words was likley to be met with comment and controversy of some kind on their own by the religious section of society (I mean, they may as well have just had a little donkey and a stable on the sleeve!). But in fact no, the sleeve itself was the cause of the other potential source of controversy the release was likely to encounter.
Despite Madonna appearing on the sleeve in a wedding dress, thus reinforcing the supposed traditional concept of being a virgin on her wedding night, the addition of the Boy Toy belt and the (by then) notoriety surrounding the singer’s onstage antics could have been viewed as poking fun at the religious ‘no sex before marriage’ doctrine. Also, her rather prominent pair of boobies and the sultry look on her face may have met with raised eyebrows at how one could consider her a ‘virgin bride‘. Many (your fact of the day correspondent included) thought Madonna had never looked so beautiful and sexy, but Sire were concerned that retailers in certain areas, particularly the so-called ‘Bible Belt‘, might be met with hostility by the suggestive sleeve.
Thus, in a move which has inadvertantly led to the confusion of many fans for decades, they came up with the genius idea of giving retailers two options on which sleeve they displayed instore to potential shoppers, and thus gave fans two options from which to chose at home. The suggestive and potentially ‘offensive‘ front one we know and love, and a less provocative but equally attractive alternative. What was the other sleeve and why have I never seen it, you’re no doubt wondering? Well, you have, it’s none other than this one :
“…but that’s the rear sleeve” I hear you shout. And indeed it was. But have you ever wondered why all copies of the LP were pressed with the rear sleeve upside down? Well, Sire hit upon the snag that if they pressed this alternate cover the correct way up then when stacked in stores and on fans’ shelves at home it would mean that the spine of the album was pointing into the shelf rather than out to the customer/owner. How would you know what record that was in amongst a bunch of others? Thus, to enable the spines of the album to point outwards irrespective of which cover was displayed, they printed the main sleeve the correct way up, and flipped the other one over for the rear.
This may sound silly, but if you look at the two sleeves side by side you will see that the album title and Madonna’s name are given exactly the same prominence and feature in exactly the same position :
Also, the credits and song titles are printed so small as to detract from the main picture as little as possible. Compare this to most other album covers. On those the tracklisting is usually given extreme prominence, and not crowded in down the at bottom out of the way of the main picture. Sire seem to have successfully averted the feared controversy as, at its height, the album was famously selling 80,000 copies a day in the US where it eventually went on to sell over 10,000,000 copies!
Thanks to my mysterious source of North American origin for today’s Fact
Fact Of The Day is brought to you by Tony from London.